Forza Horizon 5 has a formula that is, by now, well established. These are semi-arcade racers that are more concerned with taking dream cars for a joy ride than they are about being a detailed motorsport simulation. Forza Horizon 5 returns to the series to the Americas for the first time since the original, setting the new instalment in Mexico.
A quick disclaimer
The preview build that Xbox and developer Playground Games supplied for this preview contained the game’s entire map and its first few hours of content. It did not contain any live elements, so no multiplayer, no shared-world experience, and no EventLab content. If you were interested in anything to do with these modes, I’m afraid I can’t comment on them.
Races available in the preview build included circuit tracks and several kinds of off-road racing. There were also a couple of the splashy event races the FH series is known for, but I won’t detail the content of those races to better avoid spoilers. Across the board, driving still feels wonderful. It rides a careful line, creating steering that feels neither too realistic nor too floaty. Small variations in weight and overall driveability can be felt from vehicle to vehicle, but never to the extent that anything is capital-b Bad to drive.
Returning in Forza Horizon 5 is what I would call the single-car perk system. Essentially, the more you drive a particular car, the more perk points you’ll accrue for it, and the more perks you can unlock. These points are not transferrable car-to-car. This is, I think, designed to promote a sense of curation in your garage. The game wants you to drive everything and see what you like the most.
Once you know what you like, you can start to build a library of cars — which are claimed in randomised Wheelspins or purchased with in-game currency earned through races — to suit any particular event. Got a cross-country sprint coming up? Great opportunity to get the Hoonigan out of storage. A Super GT race has been added to the itinerary — I keep a 2020 McLaren GT on ice for just such an occasion.
What did strike me in this preview was the game’s raw beauty. This is a series know for dazzling visuals (who could forget Bajo’s legendary critique of Forza Horizon 2‘s graphics), but what I’ve seen in the preview is beyond the scope of any game in the series to date. Ray-traced lighting, AI-determined real-world light simulation, reflections, particle effects, and ultra-detailed vehicle models work together to create a spectacular, curated tour of Mexican countryisde.
Its honestly hard to describe how jaw-droppingly beautiful FH5‘s visuals really are. You’ll just have to see them for yourself when it launches. I’m sure we’ll talk more about the visuals in our inevitable review, but damn, is this game pretty.
Forza Horizon 5 bears all the hallmarks of confidence. This small taste provides a glimpse of a game brimming with confidence. It has the swagger and self-assurance of a professional race car driver, aware of who it is and what it’s best at. We look forward to spending time with the full game when it launches on November 5, 2021.
Preview conducted on an Xbox Series X with preview build access provided by the publisher.